- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Jewish Lights; New Ed edition (7 Dec. 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1879045419
- ISBN-13: 978-1879045415
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.1 x 20.3 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,760,502 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Passion For Truth (Jewish Lights Classic Reprint) Paperback – 7 Dec 1999
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About the Author
Abraham Joshua Heschel was born in Poland in 1907, received his early education from a yeshiva (a school for Talmudic or rabbinical study) and earned his doctorate from the University of Berlin. In 1939, six weeks before the Nazi invasion of Poland, he left for London and then for the United States, where he taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City from 1945 until his death in 1972. An activist as well as a scholar and a teacher, Heschel was deeply engaged in social movements for peace, civil rights and interfaith understanding.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Every thought resonates with Heschel's major "popular" statements of religion and Jewish philosophy, "God in Search of Man', and "Man is not Alone". It is obvious from reading this work that Heschel's own philosophy drew heavily on the Kotzker Rebbe's teachings - strip away the adornments and seek the essence and truth.
It is quite unfortunate that Heschel's major work on the Kotzker was never translated from the original Yiddish. Until such translation is published, this book alone provides both an incisive look at theological radicalism and a sense of the misdirection of most modern theories of religion.
The second part of the book compares the Kotzker with Kierkegaard. Putting doctrinal Jewish and Christian differences aside Heschel focuses on the great similarities between these two truth- seekers. Sarcastic at times, filled with irony towards themselves and humanity they each in his own way seek a religion of Truth. They both seek a religion of higher purity. Kierkegaard condemns Christendom as making little room for the true individual inward subjective Christian- the Kotzker cuts himself off from the masses seeking his guidance, and searches for truth by himself alone. These two individuals each of whom praises a kind of solitude and solitary quest for truth set themselves apart from the mass of mankind. Kierkegaard's renunciation of ordinary married life, his rejection of his fiancee Regina , are paralleled by the Kotzker's withdrawal into his own study away from the ways of the world. Still there are strong differences between the two. The Kotzker does not deny the importance of family life, is not devoid of friends and supporters. Still what fascinates Heschel is the integrity of the two truth- seekers, their uncompromising search to find the true way in worship of God.
Heschel writes this book with astounding clarity and beauty. It is clear in his largely loving tone to all the major figures that he himself bears the Hasidic spirit of his grandfather , the Apter Rebbe, who was called 'The Lover of Israel'.
I found this to be a profound study which at the same time was clear and beautiful.
A holy book from a holy writer.
The Kotzker was apolitical and spent much of his life in solitude, while Heschel was a prolific writer and champion of social reform. What could the two have in common? And how could a hermit-like thinker's focus on the individual soul be relevant to an international catastrophe?
One answer is that the Kotzker was focused on shaking people out of their complacency; he believed that even seemingly pious Hasidim were too self-satisfied, too focused on self-interest rather than on avoiding spiritual stagnation. Similarly, Heschel, writing over a century later, was concerned that Jews were forgetting the atrocities of recent decades.
Another is that he emphasized the incomprehensibility of God, an understandable theme after the Holocaust. One Kotzker saying (presumably paraphrased by the author): "A God whom any Tom, Dick and Harry could comprehend, I would not believe in."
Heschel also contrasts the Kotzker with Kirkegaard, an equally grim Christian thinker. The major difference between the two seems to be that Kirkegaard was more ascetic in his writings, disdaining sex and reproduction. By contrast, even the most ascetic Jewish thinkers believed in Genesis' commandment to be fruitful and multiply.